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How to Prevent the Unknown from Derailing Progress and Increasing Stress


Staff member
Jan 20, 2024
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Amanda felt chaotic today. And it was only 8:20 am.

No sooner had she arrived at her office did three people follow her to her office and line up to talk with her.

The first person asked her where the agenda was for today’s monthly staff meeting. Amanda realized with horror that she had completely forgotten about it. She was not only responsible for running the meeting, but also for creating and distributing the agenda a week in advance, which normally made these meetings very productive.

Dave was the second person in line. He worked in another department and asked her for a report she had promised to send him yesterday. Amanda closed her eyes with disbelief and apologized with sincerity. This had slipped her mind, too, and she not only felt frustrated, but overwhelmed at this point. She promised Dave that she would get the report to him by noon.

Dave left and the third person, Robin, appeared at Amanda’s door. She asked Amanda if she would like to drive together for their industry association meeting this afternoon at 4:00 pm.

“Is that TODAY?!” Amanda asked with surprise both in her eyes and in her voice.

“Yes,” Robin said. “Are you still able to go?”

Amanda looked at her calendar and saw that she had booked another appointment at the same time and considered what to do. “I don’t know,” she said disappointedly. “I’ll have to let you know. You may have to go by yourself today.”

As Robin left her office, Amanda considered how she had gotten here to this reactive, chaotic state. And at such an early hour of the day.

A month ago, Amanda thought she had plenty of time to prepare for the next monthly staff meeting, but the time had flown by and now she wasn’t prepared. There was no mention of it on her legal pads of to-dos, which is where she usually noted things like this. And with the build-up on her desk of various paperwork and files, she had a hard time keeping track of her to-do lists.

This also explained how she had lost track of Dave’s report request. It may have been on a to-do list somewhere, but she had gotten side-tracked and let other hot issues over-shadow something that was already a top priority.

And as for the association meeting announcement, Amanda recalled seeing it in her Inbox, but moving too fast in her day, she hadn’t taken the time to put it on her calendar. She only flagged the email, but the email had long since scrolled off her screen, and without a calendar appointment, she had no way to remember the meeting.


These “oh no” moments existed in Amanda’s workday because she didn’t have a single, reliable system and a process to keep track of ALL the things she was responsible for. If you don’t either, then you can understand how reactive and chaotic your workday can become.

Once forgotten tasks are discovered, their level of urgency shoots up to a #1 position. Then you’re trying to get one or more of them accomplished amid all the OTHER things you wanted to do (or had to do!) that day.

At times like these, interruptions will seem even MORE invasive, additional surprises will be even MORE catastrophic, and you’ll feel FAR LESS calm and prepared than ever.

Don’t take risks by not knowing everything you’re responsible for and when you need to do it.

Don’t settle for days filled with uncertainty, randomness, chaos, and confusion.

And don’t make it easy for the unknown to derail you.

It’s better to use a system in your workday that’s a lot like the navigation system in your car.

A Navigation System for Your Workday

The navigation apps on your phone and in your car help you get from one place to another. They monitor your current position and tell you how to get from where you are to where you want to be at any given moment.

If you’re following the given directions and you make a new turn that WASN’T part of the recommended route, your navigation app will recalculate and continue to help you reach your destination as quickly and as easily as possible.

In your workday, you need a similar system that tells you everything about your responsibilities—what you’re responsible for, what is most important, what steps to take, and when to act.

You also need to be able to rely on a process to help you make progress on the RIGHT tasks at the RIGHT times, thereby giving you exceptional results and above average progress.

You must know how to plan and how to prioritize quickly and easily. You need to know how to spend your time from moment to moment. Plus, when priorities shift—and they always do!y—ou must be able to turn on a dime quickly, easily, and accurately.

And you need a central, digital system to do it.

If your current workday methods for managing tasks, time, and email aren’t allowing you to do all of this, then you’re taking a BIG risk with your results, progress and success.

You’re setting yourself up for a lot of “Oh no!” moments and settling for average results—or worse, BELOW average results for all of your time and effort, which will only add more STRESS to your day.

This is like using a navigation system in your car that DOESN’T have all the correct information about roads, highways, miles, time, distance, turns, detours, accidents, and more—but you’re still relying on it to support your travel plans.

If your productivity and progress are slower than you’d like and you suspect that inefficiencies exist in your workday, then it’s time to make a change. You’re losing time you can’t afford to lose and you’re making your workday harder than it has to be by not having a system to support you.

Make Your Workday Easier

In order to enjoy a super-efficient and effective workday, you must have the right “navigation” system to guide you. It must include a way to manage tasks, time, email, and information, as well as a repeatable process you can use to make smart decisions quickly about what to do next and how to spend your time.

You must have…

  1. Full awareness of what you’re responsible for: tasks, follow-ups, reminders, ideas, etc…
  2. Knowledge of how you’ve committed your time: meetings, calls, and appointments on the calendar
  3. A clear understanding of priorities: what is most important to do each day?
  4. A realistic plan: you must know when to take action on which tasks

This is where most everyone gets stuck working in the dark.

Most professionals don’t realize that there are more than ten different sources of tasks in their workday . If you’re not aware of them or successfully keeping track of them, then tasks and follow-ups can easily be missed, lost, or forgotten and those will HAUNT you in the form of last-minute issues, emergencies, problems, interruptions, and distractions.

This was true in Amanda’s case. When certain tasks were discovered, they caused her a great deal of reactivity.

Her sense of urgency went WAY up and working this way is unproductive, stressful, and costly.

If you find yourself in this situation too, you’ll want to fix it by gathering ALL of the tasks you can find from ALL sources where your tasks are coming from. All of them. From everywhere.

As you find tasks, follow-ups, and reminders, put ALL of them into a single, central digital task list so you can plan action for each one of those tasks on certain days—today and into the future—realistically and with intention.

Once you start planning action, you’ll immediately start prioritizing, knowing that you’re not going to be able to accomplish a long list of tasks in one day. This forces you to choose how to spend your precious time every single day.

When you achieve this high level of awareness and control in your workday of what you need to do and when, you’ll be ready for anything. Armed with what you KNOW, you’ll be much more prepared for what you DON’T know or can’t foresee. Then you can continuously stay on track, course correct as necessary, and make more meaningful progress with incredible strength and speed—and with a LOT less stress.
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